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  • Writer's pictureArthur Bruso

So Far Away No One Will Notice Part 2

Updated: May 10

Part 2




8. Money Matters

 

As it is set up in the series Fellow Travelers, Hawk, with no prospects of a family inheritance initiates his plan B. Initially avoiding the blatant and often personally invasive suggestions of his surrogate father, Senator Smith, to date his daughter Lucy, Hawk embarks on wooing her in earnest. Lucy whose dearth of suitors and rapid aging out of the eligible debutant role, gladly accepts Hawk’s advances. His wealthy family, good looks, vacuous charm, and impeccable dress make this near brother whom she has known for most of her life an easy decision as an appropriate beau. If it occurs to her to question Hawk’s recent change from brotherly affection to romantic lead, she keeps these troublesome thoughts to herself.  

 

As for Hawk’s involvement with Tim, it appears they are becoming even more deeply emotionally involved. Earlier, Hawk and Tim had a falling out over Hawk’s insistence that he write a letter to Mary (Hawk’s lesbian secretary, Tim’s friend, and often social beard), the contents which contained a deceptive “break up” to distract the federal investigators away from Tim while Mary and her live-in girlfriend were being investigated for sexual deviancy. Tim views this letter as a betrayal of his loyalty to his friend. Hawk knows that it is a necessary ruse to keep Tim safe from investigation himself. Tim seems to be clueless to the serious danger the governmental investigations into sexual deviancy are to his job and reputation. He is well aware of the need for homosexuals to keep their private lives hidden, but he constantly complains about it and chafes against it. His romanticism and idealism about being in love with a man constantly collides with Hawk’s reality about the necessity and safety of being closeted.

 

In contrast to Tim’s hero worship of Senator McCarthy, Hawk has been working behind the scenes to unseat McCarthy’s power. He understands that McCarthy’s push to rout out homosexual and other deviants from the federal government is not just a danger to his career well-being but poses a threat for Tim and all other homosexuals as well. Hawk has a lead from an old Army buddy on some information that could expose Senator McCarthy as a hypocrite. His Army buddy works as a bartender in Rehoboth Beach. Hawk intends to go there to see if this information is legitimate. He intends on spending the weekend alone and mixing a little pleasure with the fact-finding until Marcus informs Hawk that Tim noticed that Hawk had missed his birthday during the four weeks they had been estranged. Hawk changes his plans and decides to invite Tim for the weekend as an apology cum birthday present. Tim’s frustration at the intrigues that the gay population must resort to just to live their private lives leaps to the surface at Hawk’s invitation. “That letter was the ugliest thing I…” Tim spits out before Hawk cuts him off. “It was all for the best, wasn’t it? We’re still employed, including Mary.” Hawk patiently explains. Tim’s moral offence begins to weaken at the prospect of spending a weekend with Hawk. He relents.

 

The weekend is rocky, but emotionally productive for our struggling couple. The subject of Hawk’s political intrigue (which he keeps secret from Tim because of Tim’s alliance with Senator McCarthy) takes longer than he anticipates when he finds the informant unresponsive from having ingested barbiturates. His efforts at rousing the informant are futile, and they take longer than the 20 minuets he offered to Tim when he excused himself. While Hawk’s efforts are engaged trying to revive the drugged informant, Tim becomes concerned with the passing time and becomes restless waiting at the bar. As he heads to the bathroom, a stranger follows him. Once inside, the stranger kisses him. At first Tim is almost ready to follow through with this new attention, which furthers his understanding of his desirability. In the end, his devotion to Hawk wins out. He leaves the temptations of the bar to go search for Hawk. Not knowing what Hawk’s true reason for the trip was, he finds Hawk in a rental cabin behind the bar. Tim becomes angry at being abandoned while Hawk was up to some kind of no good in the cabin. Tim runs off blindly, Hawk follows, and they have a row on the side of the highway. Tim’s frustration at not being able to fully express their relationship in public erupts. “I want to be with you! Sleep in the same bed with you all night! Not getting kicked out at midnight so the neighbors won’t see me leaving in the morning! I want to eat a meal with you! We have never eaten in a restaurant!” Apparently, Tim has forgotten that when Hawk first came to his apartment, Hawk offered to take him out to supper.

 

The disagreement is quickly diffused. Hawk registers for a room alone since in the 1950’s two men could not rent a room in a hotel together. He discreetly shows Tim the room number. Hawk has conveniently left the door open for Tim’s furtive entry. They quickly fall into each other’s arms.

 

At the dinner Tim argued for, Tim hears again Hawk’s plans for the future, that he is looking for complete personal freedom. Disappointed, Tim asks, “You mean, not giving yourself to something or somebody?” Hawk’s curt response, “If that’s the way you see it.,” leaves Tim with the feeling that he is not included in Hawk’s plans. To be provocative, deducing that Hawk has increased his dating of Lucy Smith, he posits, “How does Lucy Smith see it?” Hawk seethes at this question but gives no answer or excuse. He is the only one who will know his true motives on Lucy Smith. As they talk, a house accordionist enters the dining room and plays a jaunty version of Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps. Tim notices a couple at the next table become animated when they recognize the tune. The wife is asking the husband to sing their song to her. The embarrassed husband demurs. In a spirit of joviality, and to lighten the pervasive gloom that has enveloped Hawk and Tim’s little assignation, Tim begins singing to the couple. Hawk is at first shocked at Tim’s audacity, then seeing that the restaurant is entertained by Tim’s antics, accepts it as a diversion. But by the third verse, the message hits home to Hawk, and becomes a direct message from Tim:

 

So if you really love me

Say yes

But if you don’t dear

confess

But please don’t tell me

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps

 

Hawk is glowering now. Tim is watching the neighboring couple kiss across the table. Overwhelmed with the futility of his love for Hawk and understanding that Hawk and he can never share such intimacy in public in a homophobic world, Tim begins to despair. His face crumples as he quickly exits the restaurant.


 

While I can relate to Tim in Fellow Travelers about the frustrations of living your authentic self in a homophobic world, I did not come of age in the repressive 1950s. I faced the dawning of my sexual identity in an atmosphere of rapidly changing sexual freedoms for gay men and women. That did not mean that I was living amongst enlighten people. Like Tim, I was raised Catholic and attended Church regularly until my teens. Unlike Tim, I was not subject to the Church’s immobile position to expunge homosexuality, probably because I did not attend Catholic school. Still, as a child, living my authentic self was constantly thwarted, questioned, ridiculed, and berated first by my father. I was consistently subjected to my father’s wrath about my lack of interest in “masculine” pastimes. My father made it crystal clear throughout my childhood that I was not the boy he wanted. He believed and forced me to believe that there was something wrong with me because I liked to read, play indoors, had an interest in creative endeavors, and avoided trouble. It should be mentioned that my father rarely took any initiative to teach me how to play ball or even spend any time with me. It seems he harbored a resentment toward me stemming from my infancy when I would cry whenever he tried to hold me.

 

There was one instance when I was a toddler, when my mother insisted that my father take me fishing with him. While we were in the boat, he was trying to show me how to bait a hook with a worm. I couldn’t do it because I didn’t like the feel of the squishy, sticky worm, and impaling the worm on the hook revolted some sense of rightness in me. He insisted I do it a little too fervently. I began to cry. At my tears, he really lost his temper and shouted at me how much of a sissy I was. I embarrassed him with my childish behavior he chided. The tirade went on. I carry a hatred for fishing to this day. My father’s reaction to my squeamishness sent me into the consolation of my mother, which further infuriated him. This pattern of behavior continued between my father and myself. I could never do anything right for him. He beat me, he berated me, and he yelled, but I stubbornly remained a sissy and a little too fey for his vision of the boy I should be. For my part, I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong to deserve this abuse, so I began to withdraw into myself. I became nearly pathologically shy. My quietness and reticence lasted well into adulthood.

 

Later, school brought similar negative attention to me. I was considered weird by my classmates. I was teased, often bullied and until fourth grade, never had any friends outside of my siblings. My teachers were either nurturing if they saw potential in me, or impatient with me for my diffidence and boredom in class. What I did learn in my school socialization was to build on the defenses I had developed from trying to pacify my father; to hide my personal life from the ridicule of classmates who believed my creative projects and nerdy interests were fodder for bullying. I learned to become embarrassed by how I filled my leisure time, fearing that should any of it became public it would become a further source of derision. Hiding my true self became a real skill that I would value and continue to use as I matured.

 

As I entered middle school, I became more aware of my clothes since they were usually unfashionable, ill-fitting, and purchased by my mother who had little regard for pre-teen fashion trends. To avoid the criticism and laughter that accompanied these parentally enforced, and usually dated sartorial choices, I began to purchase and launder my own clothing to avoid that embarrassment. Soon, all my public behavior became controlled by trying to conform into what would draw the least attention. I spent the majority of my formative years learning how to be invisible.

 

When I realized I was gay, that new aspect of my personality was simply another thing to keep hidden. It also seemed to be the realization of everything that the world had already assumed of me. This became a real issue after my middle school gym teacher became concerned that I was eyeing my male classmates in the shower a little too long. I was sent to talk with the guidance counselor to determine if I had a “problem.” After a semester of talks, I was pronounced “normal,” so avoided any punishment or lasting psychological trauma. I didn’t connect what these sessions with her were about until I was long graduated, Yet I did learn to be more furtive and slyer about my enjoyment of the naked male form. I also realized that any physical contact with any of my peers was off limits. Any male I touched had to have absolutely no connection to my school or my neighborhood. I would not have been able to withstand the incessant taunting and social ostracism that would have occurred if my sexual orientation had become public knowledge. In the middle school I attended, every male had to conform to a code of masculinity. Any deviance from that peer-imposed normality would be grounds for social death and beating.

 

By the time I was 15 years old and had come out to my mother, keeping my gayness a secret had become easy and normal for me. By my mother’s request it was a secret I kept from my father, but it was also a secret I was well aware I should keep from the world. I myself didn’t believe that being gay was morally bad, but I did know that it was something that was best kept private. The silence around it kept me safe.

 

Unlike Tim in Fellow Travelers, I was not constantly calculating the risk of which act of gay sex constituted a mortal or venial sin, and then estimating the penance for God’s forgiveness. I had no guilt or issues with enjoying or participating in gay sex. I found it fun and fulfilling. I had more concerns about sex with women. From a young age, my brother and I had been warned that we could not have sex with a woman until we were married. Without a clear warning about sex with men, my adolescent logic concluded that gay sex was not a moral taboo. I was rarely in a situation to engage with a woman. On those very few occasions I found myself in that awkward scenario, I held fast to the moral boundaries that my parents had instilled, and to my lack of interest.

 

After confiding to my mother about my attraction to boys, she did not hesitate to tell my older sister. My sister who couldn’t keep a confidence regardless of the consequences, told anyone who would listen. She began to believe that having a gay brother earned her cool points with her peers. I often found that my sexual orientation preceded me in some social situations, often in areas where I would have preferred discretion. It annoyed me that I could not control to whom or when I wanted to disclose my sexual preference. I asked my sister on several occasions to stop outing me to people. She refused to see this as my exclusive prerogative or something that should be under my control. It began to put distance between us.

 

Once I became partnered with Felix, I lived my life on a need-to-know basis. I was still very much in survival mode, especially in certain circumstances such as my high school or college classes. While I never hid my relationship with Felix, I was not out at college to either my professors or classmates. I also did not socialize much on campus as long as I was studying in Albany. I preferred to spend the majority of my time with Felix and the gay community he had built around himself. We did all of the things that Tim in Fellow Travelers longed to do with Hawk including eating in restaurants. I soon found out that most people don’t really care about your personal life unless it directly affected them. However, we did refrain from kissing or holding hands in public. Felix drew his line there. It made him very uncomfortable. His discomfort with public displays of affection between men probably stemmed from his Christian upbringing. Being seen in public with a man was a masculine privilege to him. Kissing a man in public was akin to a sin. It was a vestige of his upbringing that he could not shed.

 

 

9. The Desire to Continue

 

After Tim quickly exits the Rehoboth Beach restaurant in Fellow Travelers, we the viewer have no way of knowing where he goes. We only know that as he enters the hotel room, Hawk is already there. A sheepish Tim offers to break the tension in the room by taking responsibility for the aborted meal. “I embarrassed you,” Tim says apologetically. Hawk is facing away from Tim, removing his jacket and shirt. “I can’t have this” is all Hawk gives as a reply. At Hawk’s insistent back, Tim grows bolder, “I know, you can’t have this – this emotion.” Tim is aware that Hawk has feelings for him. He suspects that Hawk is struggling with these feelings since everyone around Hawk has let him know that Hawk prefers sex without attachment. Hawk simply excuses Tim’s public scene in the restaurant to Tim not being able to hold his liquor. Hawk, while silently fuming is careful not to face Tim so as not to allow Tim to see his inner turmoil about Tim’s behavior. His attachment to Tim is right on the surface. He wants Tim to be able to enjoy their passion in private, but to control his emotional connection with him enough to hide it from the public.

 

On Tim’s part, he understands in a practical way that he must hide his relationship with Hawk from the public. We know from his frustrated outburst earlier in the day, that the hiding and lying goes against his fundamental morality. Tim’s acceptance of his queerness is always going to be at odds with the homophobia rampant in the public during the time he is living in. This is Tim’s inner conflict, his desire to experience a fully realized relationship with Hawk, without deception, and the necessity of concealing the true nature of his involvement with another man because of societal pressure. Hawk has internalized this closeted behavior because he realizes it is necessary to function among the social and business world he aspires to. Pretending to be straight during work hours, while seeking out male sexual partners during his private hours has become a natural compartmentalization for him. Tim keeps conflating Hawk’s closeted behavior in public with avoiding his feelings for him. This is where Tim is wrong. Hawk’s reticence in showing his deepening emotions to Tim has less to do with his need to be closeted and more to do with not wishing to destroy another person, like when he abandoned his first love, Kenny after the rumors began circulating about Kenny’s “artistic” ways.

 

In this scene Tim is trying to get Hawk to break his façade of indifference and show something of his caring for him. He decides to confess to what happened while Hawk was busy with his work mission. He informs Hawk that he kissed a man (note that he phrases the incident as if he was in control of the situation, not the stranger). Hawk still with his back to Tim, shows a momentary jealous rage on his face at this information. For the first time in their relationship, Hawk has to face that Tim could be desirable to other people. It somehow never occurred to Hawk before this moment that he might lose Tim to another. Hawk quickly composes himself and for the first time in the scene, turns to face Tim. With a sneer that is calculated to diminish Tim’s game changing information, he spits, “Congratulations.” Tim sensing a shift in Hawk’s interest, ups the stakes, and as flatly matter of fact as he can muster, “I could have gone home with him. He wanted me.” Hawk’s rage and jealousy are apparent on his face now. Instead of having any physical reaction, he turns away from Tim again to hide his emotions. This is not the reaction Tim was hoping for. Hawk is retreating into himself instead of showing his care for Tim. For Tim, even a negative reaction would be better than indifference. In frustration to Hawk’s controlled reaction, Tim jumps from the chair he has been sitting in and shoves Hawk from behind. Hawk recoils from this assault ready to swing at Tim but retains his composure. Tim, seeing the ready-to-strike reaction on Hawk’s face and reading Hawk’s mind, faces off to Hawk and tells him, “You want me to be rough trade? Hit me.” Hawk shakes his head at Tim’s naive grasp of “rough trade” and the lengths that Tim will go to, to get Hawk to prove his love. In his anger at being provoked, Hawk without hesitation gives Tim a wallop across the face. Tim, not satisfied with this punishment for his unfaithfulness to Hawk, asks, “Again.” Hawk complies but with less fervor than before. Hawk takes control from Tim. He orders Tim to take off his clothes. He takes Tim’s tie and binds his hands. He demands from Tim, “Who do you belong to!?” Tim is finding this new commanding Hawk arousing, “You,” he gasps. Hawk pushes the now naked Tim onto the bed. He gets Tim into the passive position and enters him roughly. “Who do you belong to?!” he demands again. “You!” Tim gasps again, totally into the rough scene. Hawk instructs, “Say it all! I belong to Hawkins Fuller!” Tim repeats the declaration between pants. They kiss with a new passion. Hawk has now fully subsumed Tim, giving Tim the answer about Hawk’s love that he had been looking for.

 

Later, post coitus, Hawk compares Tim to Senator Smith, stating that they are both good men. Tim has a look of satisfaction on his face at this correlation. Their relationship has moved forward.

 

In the morning, while sitting on the beach Tim asks if it’s time to go. The weekend has been a momentous one for him and he has enjoyed the pretense of a relationship with Hawk without the deception necessary in the “real world.” “Back to leaving in the middle of the night, sneaking downstairs, lying.,” Tim laments ruefully. “Skippy, everyone lies about something. You and me we lie about who we sleep with. I know it hurts you because you’re good. Sweet. But the lie gets easier. Eventually, it doesn’t hurt as much because you have no choice.,” sages Hawk from a place of personal pain. Tim weighs his next words before he speaks them. He decides to take the chance, “It’s not who we sleep with, it’s who we love.”  Tim has declared himself to Hawk. Hawk totally grasps the sincerity of Tim’s admission.


 

I’m certain that Felix and I declared our love to one another. I know that there were valentines, birthday cards, and letters that I can produce from storage that have that word as the valediction. I no longer have any memories of either of us saying it aloud to each other. We must have at least a few times considering how long we were together. Was such an avowal of our emotions as necessary for us as it was for Tim? We each knew how we felt by our actions.

 

Felix never overcame the guilt he had about being with me. That guilt tainted our relationship in many ways. Aside from constantly encouraging me to have other sexual experiences that he felt was the right of any young queer, he had never quite given up his own wanderlust. As a way to both satisfy his own roving eye, and as a means to give me the worldly adventures he constantly believed I needed, Felix would bring me to the most abject of gay experiences. I accompanied him to bath houses, dive bars, nude male beaches, and porn theaters. He showed me how to cruise parks after midnight and public bathrooms in the bold afternoons. He seemed to have a knowledge of any and every tawdry place frequented by the gay community for the sole purpose of finding a sex partner. When in an unfamiliar city, he always knew how to find the gay scene. I never wanted to see or do any of this. I was always an observer and what I saw always gave me a feeling of desolation. I was uncomfortable in the face of human debauchery. I couldn’t understand what the attraction was to debasing yourself. But I came to understand that this was something that Felix found exciting – just the way Tim believed Hawk was excited by the risks of rough trade.

 

Felix’s drinking was also a constant contention between us. He loved to drink. When he was drunk, he became effusive and less inhibited than he usually was. Spending time at the gay bar was his second home and the denizens were his people. I spent many evenings searching for him through all the four gay bars in Albany. If I couldn’t find him, I’d go home to bed, then rouse myself at 4:00 in the morning when the bars closed and return to his apartment building to catch him as he returned home. Once I found him lying incoherent on the stone pedestal built for some never installed classical lion that flanked the entrance to his building. I had to collect him while he gave loud protests that I was killing him, and support him up the stairs to his apartment, all the while him bellowing that he was being murdered. Somehow none of the neighbors looked out from their sleep to investigate. Another time I arrived in the early morning at his place, to find that he had made it to his door but had passed out half in the hall and half in the apartment, cradling his gallon of gin like a baby.

 

Why did I put myself through this at 18-19, while attending my college classes? I probably should have been concentrating more on getting my degree rather than trying to build a relationship with a functioning alcoholic, who had little interest in the domesticity I was craving. Therein was my internal conflict. I craved someone special for myself. I wanted an emotional attachment that eased my deep loneliness. I wanted to matter to someone that was not my family. I wanted a father, a brother, a male attachment in my life who would love me and praise me. For all his misguided attempts at insisting that I have new experiences, Felix wanted me around. Even if these experiences would ultimately cause me to move on from him. That was his point. He wanted me to enjoy my youth and grow independent of him. His encouragement never worked. Even after I transferred to Buffalo and then to New Paltz in pursuit of my degree, I came back every break and summer to him. He welcomed me back, even though I am sure fidelity had not been his practice while I was gone. He never in all the years we were together, and with all the others I am sure he bedded while I was away, replaced me with another. Is that love enough? I took the other men Felix picked up, to be the way that gay relationships worked. Other men for sex were too easily gotten, too casual to ignore. I had even been ridiculed by Felix’s friends for holding staunchly to my faithfulness to Felix.

 

During my last semester of college, Felix lost his job. That was a year of great change in the gay community in Albany. The community bar scene had given way to the new music and dance scene. Dance clubs with expensive sound systems became the rage. The Central Arms had seen a reduction in clientele as the new dance clubs began claiming patrons and the scene that Felix treasured began to disperse. Then three of Felix’s closest friends moved away from the city, each seeking new opportunities in easier places. Felix decided to move back to his hometown too. Originally from Philadelphia, he had come to Albany in a mandated transfer by his job at the Associated Press. His relocation to Albany had not been his choice and he never felt comfortable within the provincial confines of his new city. Philadelphia offered him a rent-free apartment offered by his brother, and a new start in a familiar place among family.

 

We talked about his move and what it meant for us as a couple. I was given to understand that I was welcome to move to Philadelphia after I graduated to live with him. In my mind, however sparce the plan was, it became part of my future. During spring break, Felix informed me that he had fixed a date for his move. The date fell during finals and just weeks before my graduation day. I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t put off moving until after I graduated. Then maybe I could move with him. He said that he wanted to establish himself in Philadelphia first. I was still confused but I conceded to his plan. Then he asked me why I wasn’t more upset about his leaving. Again, I was confused. I was assuming that we were going to be together soon, why would I be upset about it?

 

On the day of his move, I came home to my dormitory room to find a note taped to my door. It was from Felix, writing that he couldn’t pass the exit on the highway for my college without stopping to see me one last time. I was crushed to have missed him. My cooperating teacher for my student teaching had taken me out to dinner. I would have much rather have spent the time with Felix. I would regret missing his visit for the rest of my life.

 

What I didn’t know and what Felix refused to make clear was that he was actually breaking up with me. The brother who was offering him the apartment was rabidly homophobic and my living there would be difficult if not impossible. Felix was not really out to his family and my presence would expose an uneasy truth. I had no idea how the dissolution of his marriage was explained or if there was any unspoken knowledge among his family about Felix’s private life. He never confided to me about these issues. Instead of telling me any of this, it apparently was easier for him to let me believe that however vague and unplanned, there was still a future for us. He saw it as the perfect time for dissolving our relationship. I was graduating college with my degree, and my whole life was ahead of me. I didn’t need to have the burden of him to hold me back. For months I continued to be clueless to all of Felix’s decisions about us.

 

I graduated without him in attendance, which darken the ceremony for me. Days went by, then weeks. I didn’t hear from him. I wrote letters to the address he had given me. The letters came back unopened. I became frantic and depressed. For the entire summer following my graduation, I did not hear from Felix. I could barely function. I moped. I cried. I worried. I drove my mother insane with questions that she had no answer to. I probably had a mental breakdown, so intense were my black feelings. Life had lost all color and meaning. And the letters I wrote all came back – “Addressee not at this address. Return to sender.”

 

In October a call came. “It’s Felix!” my mother cried with excitement as she handed me the phone. The great shroud of despair that had settled over me disappeared with those magic words. Life became worth living again. I took the phone and poured six months of emotional anguish into Felix’s welcoming ear.

 

He had excuses. He claimed the postman didn’t know he was living here, when I told him all the letters I had sent were returned. But now he had a job and he had just had a telephone installed so it would be easier to keep in touch. I was skeptical about the postman, and it sounded like he had had the job for several months. I was ready to believe that the telephone was newly installed. What was clear, even though all the deception, Felix had missed me. He could not leave me behind. We made plans on that reuniting telephone call to meet in Philadelphia on the first long weekend – definitive plans.

 

10. Hiding the Truth

 

After the road trip to Rehoboth Beach, Fellow Travelers jumps forward about four months to December, Christmastime. Tim and Hawk have now been seeing each other for a little over a year. Unfortunately for the future of their relationship, the Department of Security investigating deviant behavior in the government has been tipped off to Hawkins Fuller. From now on Hawk will be under the scrutiny of his work superiors. During this time, Hawk escalates his intentions with Lucy. After receiving his summons to appear before the Bureau of Security, he changes his plans for an evening with Tim, and agrees to attend his boss’ Christmas party. He invites Lucy to accompany him. At the party, he makes a special effort to introduce Lucy to the head of Security to reinforce his heteronormative intentions and ease the surveillance away from of his personal life.

 

The next day he has his appointment with the Bureau of Security. He aces the interview, but he has to appear early the next morning before work hours for a lie detector test. The evening before the lie detector test, he meets with Tim. Tim gives Hawk a tie for Christmas, and then promptly worries that it isn’t adequate enough. Hawk assures Tim that he loves the present by carrying him into the bedroom, where he seduces information out of him about a secret meeting in New York between McCarthy, Roy Cohn, and the lawyer of the Army. Hawk deduces correctly that the meeting is about Schine, Roy Cohn’s boy toy. For Tim’s cooperation, Hawk performs oral sex on Tim and after, they share a cum kiss. Apparently, Hawk has never done this to Tim before, as Hawk has always played the dominant role. But tonight is different for many reasons, beside it being Christmas. Before Tim leaves, Hawk gives him his present, a pair of expensive gold cufflinks with Hawk’s initials. These are not something new that Hawk bought especially for Tim, instead these are the same cufflinks that Hawk wore on their trip to Rehoboth Beach. As a symbol, they further assert Hawk’s ownership of Tim. Tim weeps over this gift (he must know that they were not purchased especially for him), but additionally they also communicate to Tim, Hawk’s emotional connection to him.

 

Hawk dampens Tim’s mood of beaming gratitude by presenting Tim with an envelope to give to David Schine when he attends his meeting the next day. For Tim, the specialness of the cufflinks has been tainted. Still, he looks at Hawk questioningly and asks, “Will I see you again?” Hawk seems taken aback by this question, since they have been seeing each other steadily for over a year. Is Tim intuiting that something is wrong? Instead of answering Tim, Hawk pulls him to his feet and gives him a long, loving kiss, ending in a rubbing of noses. Tim in a small, fearful voice asks, “What was that for?” To which Hawk cryptically replies, “So you will remember me.”

 

The viewer can only assume that Hawk has not told Tim about the government’s investigation of Hawk as a sexual deviant. But this intimate exchange alludes that Tim may know something that was not presented on camera. The oral sex, the gift of expensive cufflinks bearing Hawk’s initials, Tim’s plaintive question, and the special tender parting kiss all infer that Tim has some knowledge that Hawk will be facing some uncertainty that may decide his fate. After Tim leaves, Hawk gets busy studying methods of beating the polygraph. At the test the next morning, Hawk passes it easily. Later that evening, Hawk is spending Christmas Eve with Senator Smith’s family. He gives Lucy an expensive sapphire bracelet, perhaps from Tiffany’s judging by the recognizable blue box. This action is intended to accelerate his intentions toward Lucy, who is delighted with her gift. Tim is celebrating the holiday at home with his family. He wears his cufflinks proudly at the family holiday dinner table, admiring them with joy and silently believing that they are a token of Hawk’s love.

 

With both of Hawk’s competing interests satisfied and secure of their place in Hawk’s life, Hawk tries to find some solace at the Cozy Corner where Marcus askes Hawk, “Did they ask you if you ever loved another man?” “They did.” is Hawk’s flat reply. “And did you think about Tim? Marcus continues. “For a second.” Hawk answers. “And you passed?” questions Marcus, slightly surprised. “Clean as a whistle.,” answers Hawk, clearly wishing this line of questioning was over. “So…you’re celebrating because you don’t love Tim, or because you’re such a damn good liar?” persists Marcus. Hawk lifts his gaze to look directly at Marcus and after a pause states, “I’m not celebrating.” It becomes clear in this scene that Hawk is not comfortable with the turn his choices are taking him. He is very much aware that nothing happy will come of what he is deciding is necessary. Lucy has the money he wants to live the life he has planned for himself. She also comes with the added bonus of disguising his true nature from the intrusive eyes of the government. Tim has his heart but choosing Tim will destroy all the dreams he has for his career and his life. There is nothing to celebrate. There can be no joy this Christmas for Hawk. Later, on his own, he cruises a trick in the public toilet to give himself some solace, while the two contenders for his affections are in their separate reveries unaware of Hawk’s true plans.


 

What lies and deceptions do we have to fabricate in order to carve our place in this dominantly heterosexual world? How much of our private lives are we expected to divulge just to find an uneasy peace within ourselves, so that we can live with the hiding? After two years at State University of New York at Albany, my course of study in Art Education was eliminated. This meant that I either had to change my major, or transfer to a university that still offered my chosen major. I opted to transferred to the State University of New York at Buffalo, which still offered Art Education. Being across the state from Felix sent me into a bout of loneliness and homesickness. But neither that loneliness nor homesickness was an adequate excuse for what I did. I totally went into the closet and pretended to be straight. I even formed a relationship with a woman in my dormitory. Perhaps it was my way to keep from finding a man to have a relationship with. I wanted to be faithful to Felix. The woman fell for me, and I did not discourage it. Accepting the role of her boyfriend gave me a certain status in my dormitory. It helped me to assimilate with the other men and to become accepted into the greater social life of my dormmates. Playing the heteronormative aspect of campus life gave me insight into how seductive the privilege of straightness can be. The woman was also one of the most popular women in the dormitory and succeeding in getting her to accept my advances gave me a certain air of prowess with the other men. I somehow became admired for my masculinity. This was a heady place for me to be. Being embraced by the oppressors can feel powerful, even if you are living a life of perfidy.

 

The sham started to become unsustainable for me when the woman began to question why I never tried to kiss her. Soon she was making clear with her body language as we sat on her bed listening to music in the evenings, that she was open to having sex. Feigning sleepiness and retiring to my room was becoming suspect. By this point in the semester, I had begun to initiate another transfer to another college. Buffalo was too far from Felix, and the winter I lived through in those five months saw snowfall higher than the roofs of the campus shuttle busses. I had already begun to spend every long weekend back in Albany. With the onset of finals, I was able to bluff my way out of sex until I was safely home for the summer.

 

That was the first and last time I played straight with a woman. The subterfuge was easy enough, since I had a lifetime of practice being in the closet hiding my gayness. What I found distasteful in myself and caused me extreme guilt, was causing confusion and hurt to the woman. She had begun to develop feelings toward me, which I didn’t want and couldn’t return. These feelings were my fault for leading her on and pretending to be what I was not. I in some ways I can place some of the blame on societies assumption that all persons are heterosexual unless an individual declares themselves otherwise. Despite gay liberation and the greater acceptance of homosexuality, it still falls to the oppressed to declare their “otherness,” even in the face of prejudice, backlash, or violence. I vowed to never to be deceptive to anyone else again.

 

I would like to say I have had the courage to keep that vow. As an adult, even though I live openly with my partner, even though we have taken advantage of the Marriage Equity Act and were publicly married with the approval of the federal government of the United States of America, I still feel the necessity to keep my private life private in certain situations. I have had a few jobs that, after testing the temperature of the waters, I deemed the pool I was jumping into was too hot. There were attitudes, or micro-aggressions that outed a manager as being homophobic, or maybe just less inclined to be accepting. On these few occasions, I have begrudgingly wedged myself back in the closet to save my livelihood. I found it unfair to my partner as well. For my part, it is the assumption of the heteronormative as the default sexuality that is to blame. The backlash for my nonconformity to my oppressor’s assumptions can mean destitution for me. Like Tim, I long for a world where the gender of who I love makes no difference. Where I live, we are almost there – unfortunately not totally.

 

11. Life Changes

 

It is spring on Fellow Travelers, and everything is changing along with the weather, as relationships and careers fall apart. The viewer finds out that Senator Smith’s son, Leonard who had been angry and drunk in previous episodes, is in truth, gay. He has been missing from home for two days and Hawk has taken it upon himself to find him before he does something that will jeopardize his father’s career. Unfortunately, Hawk does not locate the errant son before he is arrested in a police raid on a suspected gay establishment. What is worse, he was caught in a compromising position. He has been booked on the public commission of obscene and indecent acts. Hawk has asked his contacts in the police department to retrieve the arrest record before it becomes public knowledge.

 

Although Hawk had decided not to tell Senator Smith about Leonard’s indiscretion and subsequent arrest, the rumors are circulating around Washington D.C. McCarthy’s team are aware of these rumors and are calling for Senator Smith to resign or face a scandal. With this pressure on the Senator, Hawk is forced to tell the truth to Senator Smith about his son. With the truth out, Hawk advises the Senator to answer McCarthy by telling his people that he won’t vote for McCarthy’s expulsion.

 

Roy Cohn confronts Tim in the office men’s room about Senator Smith’s son being a “faggot.” Tim is clueless about this but can’t convince Cohn. Cohn also asks Tim where that envelope came from that Hawk had given him at Christmas to hand off to David Schine. Tim tells him that, “somebody left it on my desk.” Cohn calls him a terrible liar. This exchange sends Tim off to Hawk’s office to find out what is going on. Hawk tries to be evasive and rush Tim out. Tim stands firm, demanding to know what was in the envelope. Tim is appalled to find out that Hawk is working underhandedly to topple McCarthy. McCarthy is still Tim’s personal hero. When Hawk hears Tim’s implausible lie about someone leaving the envelope his desk, he realizes that Tim is becoming a liability with his compulsive honesty.

 

Senator Smith’s son Leonard is also a liability and needs to be disposed of. It is decided to send him to a conversion center where Leonard can be turned straight – or at least put him out of sight until Washington D.C. focuses on another scandal. While Lucy is packing Leonard’s clothes for his stay at the conversion center, they have an interesting exchange. Leonard asks Lucy what she told their mother. Lucy says, “That your drinking has gotten out of hand and you’re going to a nice place to dry out.” Leonard sighs in resignation, “That’s only half a lie, I guess” Annoyed, Lucy responds, “I try not to lie Leonard.” Leonard sneers back, “But you do, sister dear. You just don’t know it.” This is Leonard’s allusion to Hawk’s wooing of Lucy and that she is willing to lie to herself about her suspicions regarding Hawk’s true nature because of her adolescent crush on Hawk and her own lack of suitors.

 

We discover while Hawk is dropping off Leonard at the conversion center, that it was Leonard who first brought Hawk home and introduced him to the family. Hawk was initially Leonard’s special friend with benefits which explains Leonard’s frustration with Hawk. Hawk had weaseled and incorporated himself so assiduously into the Smith family fabric, that his steadfastness and competence completely eclipsed Leonard as the favored boy. Leonard was socially awkward and unmanly. In Senator Smith’s eyes, he was a disappointment as a son. Hawk had all the qualities that the Senator craved for his male offspring, while Hawk needed a father who admired him. Leonard didn’t stand a chance.

 

The scene where Hawk becomes his most despicable is while waiting for Admissions to process Leonard into the conversion center. Leonard reminds Hawk that he knows about Hawk’s true nature. Also reminding Hawk how they used to fool around together. Hawk chooses his words carefully, “All boys do that. Normal men grow out of it.” Clearly shifting the blame away from himself and onto Leonard and his “abnormal” interests. Undeterred by Hawk’s clear gaslighting, Leonard, with increasing conviction in the face of Hawk’s responses, shifts his position to turn more squarely toward Hawk and says, “I thought about telling my father about you.” Hawk picks up Leonard’s body language, steps forward menacingly and catching Leonard squarely in the eyes, quietly threatens, “Tell him what? Some sad twisted fantasy you created in your perverted brain. Why don’t you tell him? No, I’ll tell you why, because you know he’d never believe you.” Leonard still fixed in Hawk’s stare, is cowed. Barely fighting back tears of defeat, he concedes bitterly, “You’re right. He’d always take your word over mine.”

 

Hawk takes no pleasure in this win. He begins to feel sorry for Leonard for the first time in this situation. But Leonard’s fate has gone so far as to be irreversible. The orderlies come out to bring Leonard into the facility. Hawk looks after the group as they walk through the door and wonders if this is the right thing to have done. It was easy to convince Senator Smith to send his son away for conversion therapy. The Senator had no understanding about the procedures or the conversion techniques. Hawk listened to the methods from the director and was surprised to learn that they would be applying shock therapy to facilitate a cure. He hadn’t counted on torture as a part of the program. His plan to get rid of the pesky Leonard who knew too much about his past had been achieved, but the cost for Leonard weighs on him. Still, there are now no more impediments to his marrying Lucy.

 

Meanwhile, Tim is having his own internal revelations at his job. As the Army increases the pressure on McCarthy regarding the special favors that David Schine has received to make his stay in the Army more comfortable. Tim recognizes that a photograph McCarthy and Cohn are using as a defense. It has been altered to look as if Schine had been receiving favors without McCarthy and Cohn’s influence. Tim naïvely assumes that the altering of the photograph is only Cohn’s doing. He goes to McCarthy to inform him of the sham. In a scene where poor Tim’s preciously held ideals are crushed; he learns that McCarthy is in on the deception with the photograph. Devastated by the brutal use of his power and the self-idolization he hears from his hero; Tim writes an anonymous letter to the Army’s lawyers explaining to them about the doctored photograph and resigns from his job. Tim’s letter sets in motion the downfall and expulsion of McCarthy from his Senate seat.

 

Later that evening, confused, and devastated by the events of the day, Tim goes to Hawk for consolation and comfort. He catches Hawk as Hawk is leaving his apartment building. Visibly distressed, Tim reaches out for succor from the man he expects understanding and love from. Tim blurts out breathlessly, “Hawk! I, I quit my job. Had to. Can we go upstairs?”. Hawk, taken by surprise by Tim’s appearance, shakes his head no, “I’m going out.,” he shoots back at Tim. It is clear that Hawk does not want to see Tim at this time, despite the pity that he is trying to harden from his face. He turns and walks away. Tim is in need of Hawk’s love right now. Begging, he persists, “Out hunting? Take me with you.” Hawk is on his own mission and has his own thoughts to ponder. He flatly replies, “You wouldn’t enjoy it.” His face full of understanding and compassion for Tim’s crisis. Tim becomes confused at Hawk’s refusal to be with him at this time when he is obviously in emotional need. Tim begins to plead, “No, I’d be with you. Everything’s gone Hawk. I don’t know what to believe. I just knew I needed to see you.” Hawk’s heart is breaking at Tim’s cry for help, but for his own reasons he cannot comfort him. He needs his own time to figure out his next move. “I should have left you alone.” Hawk responds in a voice heavy with emotion and regret. “And I am so glad you didn’t. Please, just take me upstairs. Just take me upstairs!” Tim implores Hawk, losing himself in his desperation for comfort. Hawk pushes Tim away in frustration. “Listen to me! I don’t want you to read about it in the papers.” In a breaking voice, and on the verge of his own tears, Hawk finally gets out the line that Tim has been asking him for two years. “I’m going to ask Lucy Smith to marry me.” Tim at first looks at Hawk in disbelief. For two years, Hawk has been denying this, even though Tim knew in his heart it would happen. He fights back tears. He realizes he is alone and bereft in his sorrow. He has no one to save him. He backs away. Then he turns and leaves. Hawk himself fights back his own tears. He didn’t want it to end this way with Tim. The anguish and guilt show on his face. He wanted time to figure out how to fit Tim into his new life with Lucy. He didn’t figure on Tim having his own crisis and showing up before he had a plan for them both. Now he must process the deep pain he has caused Tim.

 

At about the same time, Senator Smith informs his daughter that his enemies have gotten hold of Leonard’s arrest record. They are using them to force the Senator to resign or they will expose his son’s homosexuality to the press. The Senator is in despair over this news. He is facing an impossible decision: destroy his career or destroy his son. He feels particularly guilty about his son. He allowed himself to favor Hawk over Leonard, then to destroy his son’s life by sending him to the conversion facility, and now the potential to destroy his son again by exposing him publicly is just too much for him to bear. The next day he goes to his office, writes a note about truth and America, then shoots himself. At his funeral, the viewer can clearly see Leonard standing next to his weeping mother as she is handed the flag that was draped over the Senator’s coffin. We have no explanation about how Leonard gets there. This is the last we see or hear about Leonard. His character, having served its purpose in adding further dimension into Hawk’s motivations, disappears from the series. Strangely, not one character mentions or asks about him again.

 

A few days after the funeral, Hawk knocks on Tim’s door, literally with his hat in his hand. He looks around realizing that Tim is packing to leave. Tim has joined the Army and is due at his assignment in two days. Again, the timing is off for them. Hawk had come with the intention to somehow work something out between them. As a way to break the tension in the room, Hawk says with a smirk, “I’m not going to wait for you.” This all too true line brings the intended smile to Tim’s face. Encouraged, Hawk says hopefully, “I want to take you somewhere. Come on. The Army owns your body now, I can’t steal you from them.” Almost as a wish he adds, “Or can I?” Immediately, Tim shoots back firm in his decision, “No! You can’t!”

 

Hawk takes Tim to the roof of a government building. The building remains anonymous in the series, but readers of Thomas Mallon’s novel on which the series is based, know that it is the old federal library building. Under a copula designed like a circular Greek temple to frame their tragedy, Hawk and Tim say their heartbroken goodbyes. Hawk grieves over the way he has destroyed everything between them. Tim grieves over the love he shared with Hawk and the life he imagined they could live together. “Promise you won’t write,” Tim asks with heavy finality. He needs this to be an end, in order for him to move on and build a new life. Getting letters from Hawk would just keep his hopes and dreams about Hawk alive. Hawk reluctantly agrees to Tim’s request. He does not want to lose Tim and writing would be a way to hold onto a small part of him. They both turn from each other trying to hide their tears. Both wishing their little drama had turned out much differently.

 

I cannot say that the repressive atmosphere toward homosexuality in the 1950s was the sole factor in the dissolution of Hawk and Tim’s romance. Tim had a taste of what could be possible when he attended the party at Mary Johnson’s home. Mary’s domestic situation with her girlfriend was an inspiration for Tim and had him thinking of possibilities for a life he could have with Hawk. It was Hawk’s uncompromising view of his life and career that was the ultimate destroyer of their relationship. Hawk’s desire to keep himself in the social status that he had been born into fueled his fervor to marry Lucy. Hawk who prided himself on being bulletproof, believed that he could have both Lucy’s money and Tim’s love. That somehow neither one would object to this arrangement didn’t occur to him until it happened. As we will find, this belief in his own ability to manifest what he wants continues throughout the entire series.


 

I have little experience with conversion therapy. My mother’s plea for me to try and change when I came out to her at 15, even she suspected was an impossible ask. My own response of assurance, that I would try and change, was equally as hollow. I had no idea how I would even go about such a task. I assented only because it was what my mother wanted to hear.

 

Apparently, my gayness was evident as a small child judging by how I was treated in school and by my father. I could not hide my difference, even though I was clueless as to how that difference was perceived. I agonized for years about what was wrong with me - what was it that caused other people to treat me so badly? I reasoned that if I knew what caused the teasing and bullying, I could alter myself to become more acceptable. I asked everyone, including my mother what made me such a magnet for abuse. I received vague ‘I don’t knows’ and no practical answers. I pondered on those traits that I assumed were to blame. I became more private and silent. I tried to disappear. I endeavored to become invisible to my tormentors – including my father. This didn’t work. Somehow even in my silence, I stood out. In fact, my self-censorship and self-imposed silence caused me to stand out more.

 

I was in high school before it dawned on me the cause of all my childhood trauma – my gayness. It was something that was so fundamental to my being that I could not have changed if I had wanted to. And I didn’t want to. I loved being with men. My two young teen crushes on women were anomalies. I can only attribute them to my conviction at that age of what my understanding of my role in life was­ — to marry and have children. I accepted this, there was no other path for a boy. Even though I was attracted to men and actively pursued that attraction, I persisted in the thought of marriage. The heteronormative life is culturally strong in our society. When I finally met Felix and his community of gay men, other possibilities were proffered that I had never known existed. Once I became immersed in the gay community, there was no more thinking of marriage and children. I had found my tribe, there may have been some fine tuning to do, but there was certainly no going back to the heteronormative model.

 

While attending college in New Paltz, New York, I did meet a student who wanted desperately to change himself. While walking between classes on the campus mall. I noticed a tall, scarecrow thin, African American man with huge Babylonian eyes following me. This was not the first time I had seen him following me. It had started several days prior. On this particular day, I decided to test him. Felix had given me a tip on how to find out if a guy you’re interested in is interested in you. You enter the nearest mensroom. If they follow you, they are interested. I slipped into the nearest mensroom on the campus mall. He didn’t follow, but when I came out, he was waiting outside. I took this opportunity to approach him and asked in as non-threatening a way as I could, why he was following me. That was how I met Ben. We determined that both of us were gay and that he was indeed interested in me. While we didn’t become romantically involved, we did become close friends from that point on.

 

I found out that Ben had a very convoluted life. He had been orphaned as a young adolescent. His mother had been a single parent. He did not know who his father was. Even though he was African American, he was placed with white foster parents. His foster parents were kind – Ben called them sponsors – and encouraged his schooling and interests. Ben was a music major in university, so we had the arts in common. The difficult thing about Ben was that he hated everything he was. He hated his race, and he hated being gay. What he liked most about me was my whiteness and my ability to accept him for who he was. I didn’t pass judgement on his self-hate, nor did I try to dissuade him from it either. I believed that these were things he needed to come to terms with on his own.

 

For the whole of that spring semester, we hung out together. I never hung out on weekends with him because I went home to Felix. On Sunday’s Ben played keyboards in a black church. By trying to immerse himself in African American religious musical traditions, he was attempting to absorb something about the culture that had been lost to him. Just before the campus closed for the summer break, he came to me and informed me that he could no longer be my friend. He was entering into conversion therapy and on the advice of his therapist, he had to sever all ties to his gay friends and his past. I had only vaguely heard of conversion therapy, but I also knew that it was not going to work. I was offended by his announcement, but I told him, that if it was something that he needed to explore, then give it a try. I continued, “I can tell you now, that it won’t work, but go ahead and see for yourself.” I added, “When you come back and realize that it didn’t work, I will still be here ready to be your friend again.”  In a very bad imitation of the singer, I started barking out a line from a popular Teddy Pendergrass song, “I don’t love you anymore! It’s a shame.! I somehow needed to tease him about this ridiculous decision and express my offense at being made to feel less for my gayness. Ben slunk away and we parted for the summer.

 

The next fall, I encountered Ben on campus. He greeted me sheepishly. “You were right” he said hanging his head. Anticipating his outcome, I countered, “It didn’t work, did it? You tried it with a girl, and it didn’t work. Right?” I was nearly triumphant in my correct prediction at the result, but I tried not to gloat. I knew that this was a major disappointment for Ben. He wanted desperately to find something to be proud of in himself. “Yeah,” was all he answered. Our friendship continued on as if this interruption had never occurred, but I was known to bark out in song at odd moments, “I don’t love you anymore! It’s a shame!”  I received a tiny bit of perverse pleasure watching Ben cringe every time I did it.

 

Conversion therapy never provides the desired outcome. It is often torture for the patient as methods such as arousal reconditioning, electric shock treatment, surgical castration, chemical castration, and lobotomies have all been used in the attempt to turn the homosexual heterosexual. Besides the irrevocable physical harm conversion therapy can cause, the psychological damage is often greater for the patient after therapy than before. Rates of depression, substance abuse, and suicide become significantly higher due to the increased shame many participants feel after the failed attempt.  As of 2024, only 26 states have banned conversion therapy in the United States. This ineffective therapy should be banned in all states.

 

Acceptance is the only legitimate way for a gay man to live a fulfilling life. But self-acceptance in a culture that values the man, woman, child version of what is normal can be elusive. Gay men and women are constantly bombarded with images and stories that lionize heterosexual love and pairing as the epitome and goal of all human relationships. Too often queer stories told in the media are negative and promote a cultural imperative that encourages the gay community to believe that they are deviant, suicidal, and are defective in their choice of identities. There is usually the assumption that homosexuality is a choice.

 

Unfortunately, my friend Ben had internalized the cultural imperative. He did not feel a part of the society that rejected the very essence of who he was, and he believed that if he could minimize his differences, he would find acceptance. He had internalized that in order to be accepted and embraced by those people he valued – heterosexual and white – he needed to be exactly like them. Of course, this created the huge conflict within himself because he was neither. He had already emulated and incorporated into his behavior all the white American behaviors he could glean from his foster parents and society at large. While I was his friend, it was the gay part of him that became his focus. His sexuality became the impossible barrier he could not scale. Ben was a difficult person to be around. I tried. He was often sullen and withdrawn and challenging to communicate with. I was friends with him for over a decade, until he called me one day and informed me that he was moving to San Francisco. I never heard from him again.

 

12. The Internal Struggle

 

This theme of internalized homophobia is explored in the next segment of Fellow Travelers. The story has jumped in time to 1968.Tim has become a seminarian and protestor against the Viet Nam War. The FBI is looking for Tim in connection with stealing and burning draft cards as part of a radical Christian group that believes the Viet Nam War is morally wrong. Hawk, who the viewer realizes has been following Tim’s life ever since they parted ways 13 years ago, offers Tim sanctuary and a lawyer to assist him in his woes. Tim reluctantly accepts Hawk’s offer to hide out in Hawk’s hunting cabin.

 

Tim has changed from the idealistic, open, and hopeful person who in the 1950s was embracing his sexuality even with the moral guilt from the Catholic Church weighing upon him. By 1968 he is bitter and full of self-loathing of his gayness. He joined the seminary, less from a spiritual calling to be closer to God, than to try and sublimate his love for Hawk and his attraction to men. It is difficult to watch this change in Tim’s personality. His wariness of Hawk’s motivations and his judgement of Hawk’s suspected closeted behavior does not show the essence of forgiveness that is at the base of a Catholic spiritual calling. He quickly informs Hawk that although he has not taken a vow of celibacy yet, he practices it in an attempt to dissuade any ideas that Hawk may entertain about resuming their carnal relations.

 

Hawk is absolutely delighted to be reunited with his love. He parries Tim’s uncharitable implications toward his marital fidelity with good humor and shares the news that he has hired a lawyer for Tim. The conflict with Hawk’s plan is that Tim does not want to be saved from the deed he has done. He wants to martyr himself for his cause to further find escape from his sexual reality. A glitch is thrown into Hawk’s plans for a love nest reunion with Tim. Lucy, seeing through Hawk’s lie about a plumbing problem at the country house, has arrived to squelch whatever Hawk is trying to scheme. She has been onto Hawk and his real interests for a while, and believes that by not talking about it, blinding herself to the truth, and intruding on Hawk’s assignations whenever she can, it will somehow make her position as the wife stronger. Hawk is incredibly disappointed at Lucy’s ill-timed arrival. This new development will make it extremely difficult for Hawk to give Tim the welcome he had planned and to reacquaint themselves to each other.

 

Tim panics when he discovers through the lawyer, that he is facing twelve years in prison for the draft card burning. The heavy penalty still does not dissuade him from his holy cause. Tim cannot abide by the lawyer’s terms for a lighter sentence, which are to provide names of the other people in the group that were involved in the crime. Hawk seizes the opportunity to comfort Tim, which easily evolves into something more overtly sexual for Hawk. Tim rebuffs Hawk by reminding him, “In the past I held two truths: my love for you and my love for God. One was real and one was a fantasy.”  This cuts Hawk deeply. The sting of this statement shows on his face. He swipes back at Tim, “I feel the same way about my family. They’re my truth now. And they’re here. Lucy brought Kimberly and Jackson up for the weekend.” Uncompromisingly, Tim righteously responds, “You should go be with them.” Tim knows that he has hurt Hawk deeply. His conflict between his reawakened love for Hawk and his conviction to eradicate these feelings from his life break through on his face. He fights back tears of remorse. There is still too much betrayal and pain for Tim to be able to forgive Hawk. His curiosity brought him to Hawk, but now that he is there, he wants Hawk to feel some pain too. As a seminarian, Tim is taught to love all and practice forgiveness, but to forgive Hawk may mean a resumption of things Tim does not want. His guilt over his reawakened emotions for Hawk has Tim praying in the shower. He entreats, “Father why do I always fail? Why do I always give in? Why is my love for You never enough?”

 

I don’t know what aspect of Catholicism Tim is practicing, but the Catholicism I was taught is that God always loves us, because God is love. When we do not get the answer we want to the prayer we offer, it is not because God is being vindictive, mean or arbitrary. We always get the answer we need for our lives. We may not like the answer, but we can always keep praying and have a dialog with God to better understand His answer and be guided forward. God is always available. It is one of the saddest aspects of the story that Tim does not believe that God loves him. Perhaps it is because the Catholic Church preaches the destructive doctrine that homosexuality is a sin, and that God cannot love you if you do not renounce this mortal practice. God always loves you regardless of your sin. He understands your sin and forgives you for your humanity. But the writers of his character do not give Tim this grace. Instead, they allow Tim to believe he is irredeemable in the eyes of God and not worthy of God’s love as long as he has sex with men. Because of his abject belief in this unconscionable doctrine of hate, Tim cannot see the gifts of spirit that he has been given. Right now, he is facing a struggle against his true nature. He hides in seminary trying to pray away his gayness.

 

After Tim’s invocative shower, his curiosity leads him through the woods to catch a glimpse of Hawk with his family. In this very brief look at Hawk among his wife and children, he makes a decision about his future. On his return to the cabin, Tim encounters Hawk’s son Jackson, who after being contrary at the dinner table and storming off, has taken to the cabin for refuge. From the start, Tim shows an interest in Jackson’s writing and is not judgmental about his smoking. This accepting attitude on Tim’s part seduces Jackson out of his wariness and they become friends very quickly. Hawk is an inadequate father who cannot relate to these children he did not want. We learn in a flashback that Lucy begged Hawk to get her pregnant. In fact, Hawk had shown no interest in bedding his wife at all until this demand. His distance as a husband and his resentment toward his children is exposed most with his harshness towards Jackson, who keeps pushing the limits of bad behavior in an effort to make his father take an interest in him. His daughter Kimberly conjures the father she wants by loving him in spite of his distance and forcing herself into his arms.

 

While Hawk and Lucy host a party for a friend’s anniversary, Jackson seeks out Tim for refuge as he trips on acid. Tim is unjudgmental and kind toward Jackson. He acts curious about what Jackson is experiencing and their bond becomes closer. Jackson opens up to Tim about hating his father. Tim tries to reassure Jackson that Hawk does love him despite Jackson’s intuitive and acute understanding that his father has a secret that causes unspoken conflict between his parents. This second encounter with Hawk’s son confirms Tim’s resolve to refuse Hawk’s invitation to stay at the cabin. He astutely sees that Hawk needs to step up as a father. When Hawk comes looking for Jackson after the party, Tim informs Hawk that he cannot stay as Hawk’s private paramour, “Hawk, I can’t stay here. It’s not good for me and it’s not good for your family.” This is all that Tim says about Hawk’s parenting skills. Is it propriety that holds him back? Or perhaps a Catholic decorum? Hawk objects to Tim’s decision, but realizes it is best not to argue this over the sleeping Jackson. (From personal experience, it is impossible to sleep when tripping on acid.) As Tim watches Hawk carry his son to the car, he knows it will be a very long time before he sees his love again. Hawk has a look that communicates the conversation with Tim isn’t over, and it will be resumed the next day.

 

The next day, Tim goes to the main house and asks Lucy if he can use the telephone. He seems aware that Hawk isn’t there. Lucy recognizes Tim and is not pleased at his intrusion into the reality of her life. She tersely exclaims, “I know who you are. Hawk isn’t here. He drove our DAUGHTER to her riding lesson.” The emphatic, and louder pronunciation of the word “daughter” was to make clear to Tim her superior claim to Hawk as her husband and part of her family unit. Undaunted, Tim asks for the telephone and calls the lawyer Hawk had hired and arranges to turn himself in to the authorities. As he is leaving the house, Lucy with vindictiveness, tells him that a letter that Tim wrote Hawk in the 1950s declaring his love and informing Hawk that he was leaving Washington D.C. for good, was never seen by Hawk. She burned it after intercepting it while packing up Hawk’s apartment. Tim hears the bitterness in Lucy’s voice but says nothing except a little “hmmp” with a wry frown on his face. This bit of information explains a lot to Tim. The burning of the letter managed to keep Hawk and him apart for thirteen years.

 

Is the viewer supposed to forget that Tim had asked Hawk not to write in the previous episode, or are we to assume that it was Tim who set the rule and Tim who could break it? The writing of this letter seems curious when, with the directive to “please don’t write,” seemed as if Tim wanted to cease all communication with Hawk in an effort to end his relationship cleanly. However, it is not clear when in the timeline of the story this letter was delivered. It becomes clearer in the final episode.

 

Lucy is livid when Hawk returns and whales into him about harboring a criminal and putting their family at risk. She calls Tim “that man” in an attempt to erase Tim’s individuality and reduce his relationship to Hawk into something anonymous and incidental. Hawk, while mouthing a sort of apology, is more concerned with trying to understand what transpired while he was gone and wondering what has happened to Tim. He drives the road to the bus stop in time to see Tim in handcuffs being arrested by the police. As before, after he told Tim he was marrying Lucy, he arrives too late to save Tim. He loses Tim again, this time to prison.

 

There are times in a work of fiction, where a character or situation so closely resembles someone or something from our lived experience that the iteration experienced in its fictional portrayal seems like an error in the writing or the characterization made by the actor. Lucy’s confrontation with Tim strongly resembles an incident in my life, which I describe in the next section. My experience was not this sedate and controlled exchange as it is presented in this scene of Fellow Travelers.

 

Allison Williams, the actor playing Lucy does not seize the opportunity offered in this episode to fully express the pent-up bitterness of the aggrieved wife. Her muted portrayal does not fully realize the long-concealed frustration and anger of the character of Lucy. Using the pretext of harboring a fugitive who happens to be her rival, she could have made this episode her star turn to be snide and bitchy toward Tim, and really release at him all the suppressed emotions she had been burying for years toward Hawk. Her muted portrayal doesn’t polish this chance for her to shine. Her controlled, patrician delivery just doesn’t convey what could be really felt in this moment. Perhaps it is my personal experience that colors my opinion, but Lucy as she is portrayed, seems to let Tim off easy.

 

What we glean from this episode is that Tim is given two gifts from the God he does not believe loves him. The first gift is the insight that Hawk has, for better or worse, embroiled himself in a family he has minimal interest in. He sees clearly that Hawk needs to take his role of father seriously and become a better nurturing presence in their lives. Tim realizes that however easy it would be for him, he cannot be that nurturing presence. Not only would Lucy never allow it. It is not his place as the outsider. Tim intuits that his future lies elsewhere.

 

The second gift for Tim is discovering his natural talent for counseling people. He has the ability of reaching them at their core by accepting people where they are and seeing them fully. This shows us the germ of Tim as a social worker, which becomes his life’s calling. What he does not seem to have the insight for is that Hawk’s entire family is in crisis because of Hawk’s deceptions. Hawk never wanted this family. He tried to avoid it, as he tried to avoid intimacy with his wife. Everyone (except the daughter who is capable of manifesting her own reality) is suffering under Hawk’s inability to be true to himself. Hawk has the financial security of Lucy’s money but at a higher cost to Lucy and Jackson than he wants to admit. Hawk keeps believing that he can have the financial security that comes with Lucy, have boys on the side, while ignoring the real people that are involved in his scheme. It isn’t working. Tim, while making the right decision to remove himself from this tragedy in the making, overestimates Hawk’s ability to rise to his responsibilities. If Tim had an awareness of the dire consequences to come, perhaps he would have intervened.    


 

It didn’t take long after establishing my relationship with Felix to learn that he had had a wife. Then, not only a wife, but a son too. At the time, I was undaunted by this news. In the beginning, the wife and son were abstractions that had no reality. I certainly believed in their existence, but they remained a story that Felix told me because I had not met them yet. It became clear that Felix, like Hawk in Fellow Travelers, had devised a plan that would satisfy his desire to have the respect and privilege accorded to a heteronormative life, and that would also satisfy his lust and desire for sex with men. Similarly, to Hawk, he obliged his wife by giving in to demands for a child.

 

Felix’s denouement came predictably in the most clichéd manner possible. He had a day off from work. His wife left early from her job to share the day with her husband. She caught him in bed with a man. As he tells the story, she may have been able to handle another woman. That was a rival she could understand and knew how to deal with. Having sex with another woman might have even elevated his status in her eyes. But another man was something incomprehensible. It was something beyond what she was capable of accepting. She had no skills to guide her in that inconceivable situation. She demanded that Felix leave on the spot. Felix left and didn’t look back.

 

Felix continued his lie of matrimony for all the time I knew him. He told every employer he had that he was married, and legally he was. This became a problem when one of his employers took Felix aside and told him that they liked his work, but if he wanted to get ahead in the company, he would have to bring his wife to corporate events. This put him in a quandary, his wife lived in another state with another man, and he couldn’t bring me, no matter that I was willing. He eventually told them that his wife was shy and didn’t feel comfortable attending these events. He had been given the roadmap to his success, he just couldn’t follow that road and subsequently was not offered promotions.

 

While I was in college, Felix had visitation rights with his son. I came home from classes one day and had my first introduction to Felix Jr., a hyperactive toddler who loved his father and wanted to live with him. The son went home and told his mom all about Daddy’s special friend. A few days later there was an argument between Felix and his wife in the entrance hall of Felix’s building. I was in the apartment and eavesdropped out on the landing. The wife told Felix that she did not want her son around “that man.” The exact words Lucy used to describe Tim to Hawk. Like Lucy, Felix’s wife was reducing me to a generalized non-entity in an effort to subsume my actuality. That reduction of me has stayed with me my entire life. With all of the bitterness of her deception about the sham of her marriage, she spit at Felix, “When MY son grows up, he is going to know what his role is in life!” Felix was given an ultimatum, if he wanted to continue to see his son, I could not be around him. The next time I saw Felix Jr. was when he was a teenager. Felix decided to sacrifice his visitation rights.

 

Years later divorce papers were delivered to Felix. The wife wanted to marry the man she had been living with and move on with her life. Felix read them over. It was an amicable agreement of divorce, with no responsibility of Felix to his wife or his son after the legal dissolution of their marriage. He put the papers back in their envelope, never signed them, and never sent them back.

 

I don’t know what marriage actually meant to Felix. He never shared those feelings with me. It must have meant something important to him since he could not bring himself to dissolve it. He lived with me far longer than he had lived with his wife, but he hung onto the legal status of coupledom for a reason. Perhaps it was a documentation and recognition by the government and all of society of his manhood. As a gay man he had no status, no social standing, and no governmental sanction. At the time he could not marry me. Our coupledom amounted to nothing by society or by the government. Our connection was solely private and without societal recognition or protections.



Arthur Bruso © 2024


Fellow Travelers image courtesy of Paramount.

Disclaimer: Names have been changed to protect individual privacy.

 

 

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